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Grading Buffalo Nickels
By Ray Larson

You are entering into one of the hottest contested areas of numismatics. The Buffalo nickel has three periods in its history and each period must be graded somewhat differently. The late 1920's though the end of the series you may demand and be able to find coins using the hip/horn criteria on the reverse and the liberty/hair ribbon on the obverse.

On coins dated from the first of the series though the mid teens, you will have to lower your expectations by about 20% for those stated areas.

For the coins dated from the late teens though the mid twenties, you can not expect those areas be much more that 50%. Here is the trick, you personally must decide how you want to grade a buffalo nickel. Do you wish to grade on certain points established for what a perfect example would be, or do you wish to grade the coin as to how much wear it has had since it first dropped from the die pair? Keep in mind that there are many coins in the mid years that came off the dies with half a horn and liberty merging with the rim.

You can collect the series using either method of grading the coins but you of course must bring a much heavier billfold if you plan on holding out for the first method.

Another thing to keep in mind is that certain date mint mark combinations are so rare in higher grades that those coins that are right on the line of a higher grade just seem to automatically be atributed to that higher grade. Does this mean that a coin that is a full example of a higher gradeslot is a bargain. Well if you could buy it for trends this is certainly true, but the truth is that the trends do not accurately value the nicer examples of such coins as the 15-S, or the 21-S, the 24-S, or the 26-S. Even the next level of rarity on coins in the higher grades are usualy sold for thirty to forty percent over trends if they are "nice for the grade".




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